Shakespeare's Globe

RSS Pre-Rehearsal

“It almost seems like there’s not a line in Macbeth that’s not pushing the story forward or has a huge philosophical or moral idea”.
In his first interview Billy discusses his hobby of reading Shakespeare plays, how performing Macbeth at the Globe can change the way audiences and actors approach the play, and why two individuals following a similar path take such different approaches to the choices they make.

Audio placeholder

Time: 8 minutes 14 seconds

Download (7.5MB, mp3 format)
To download, right click on the link and select 'Save link as'.

Transcript of Podcast

Phil Brooks:

Hello and welcome to the 2013 Adopt an Actor podcast series. My name is Phil Brooks and I’m here talking with Billy Boyd who is playing Banquo in the 2013 Globe production of Macbeth.

How familiar were you with the play?

Billy Boyd:

I haven’t performed in the play since we did it at drama school. We did a production of Macbeth in our third year at the Royal Scottish Academy. So, I’ve kind of got my memory of that. I’ve seen a few productions of it. So, I kind of knew it – I think, since we started working on it – probably a bit better than I thought I would. I remember it quite well.

PB:

So, had you read it through before starting or is this the first time you’ve actually looked at the whole text?

BB:

No. After drama school, I got a huge love for Shakespeare. This is after I left. And I got into the habit of reading the plays as a pastime. I used to, rather than reading a novel, I would read a Shakespeare play. Which I don’t think is the best way to see Shakespeare. I think seeing Shakespeare is better. I wouldn’t say to someone, “go get the play and read it as your first introduction to it.” I would say, “go and see it.” But, once you’ve got a general idea of the play, reading it and taking yourself further into his [Shakespeare’s] thoughts and ideas is actually a really interesting and fun thing to do, you know?

PB:

So, what were your initial impressions when you read the play?

BB:

It’s a fast play! It’s really fast-paced. The scenes are short, mainly. And they jump from one place to another and the story drives a long, feral pace. Unlike some Shakespeare’s, where it’ll stop and there’ll be some deep thought about something. And it almost seems like there’s not a line in Macbeth that’s not pushing the story forward or has a huge philosophical or moral idea in there. So, I’d say my first impression is it’s a very fast and energetic play.

PB:

What about your character of Banquo? What have been your initial impressions of him?

BB:

He’s a really interesting character, I think. Because, at the start of the play, before you even meet Macbeth and Banquo, you know they’re spoken about as these great warriors, great sergeants in the army. And then, obviously, it sounds like Macbeth has done slightly more in these battles. You know, they do talk about “our captains, Banquo and Macbeth” as these huge heroes. But it seems that Banquo has a different way of looking at life than Macbeth. I think that the interesting thing to explore in a play, if you’re playing Banquo, is: why does he see things different? When they meet the witches, why doesn’t he pursue it in such a way (in the way that Macbeth does)? Why does he almost laugh at the witches when they’re saying these things? So, trying to find out why he’s different. Two guys, who are basically living the same life, why does one take one road while the other takes another? So, that’s really interesting, I think.

PB:

Have you started looking at those ideas, as to why, and developing those thoughts?

BB:

Yeah! And in all plays (and Shakespeare in particular), there’s a thousand decisions to make on every decision that you make. There’s a thousand ways you could take it. So, it’s really interesting and really fun. And, for me, the most fun thing to do is to play with those. To say, “let’s say he’s doing this because of a fear of God,” and then we’ll try it like that. And then we’ll say, “we’ll let’s do it this time because he’s scared of Macbeth. And then this time let’s do it because he’s lazy.” So, it’s nice to do all those and to feel that in your body why they all feel different. It’s interesting.

PB:

Have you performed Shakespeare before?

BB:

I have done, yeah. There’s a lovely theatre in Edinburgh, called the Lyceum that I played quite a few Shakespeare’s at: Merchant of Venice and Much Ado [About Nothing].And then there’s also a company – quite a fun company – that does Shakespeare without rehearsal, called the Original Shakespeare Company. I did a play with them. So, I’ve done a few.

PB:

You haven’t performed at the Globe yet?

BB:

No. Very much looking forward to it! I haven’t been on the stage yet. I think Midsummer Night’s Dream have taken up the stage at the moment. I can’t wait to see that. Hopefully, we’ll see that tomorrow. Yeah, very excited! Once we started talking about entrances and exits and the proscenium arch theatre (“normal” theatre that you would see today) or an old style theatre. If someone says “enter left, enter right, upstage left,” you kind of have an idea in your head. But Emily [Eve Best, Director] is like, “okay, well, enter through the front door” and I’m like “wait...I’m...I don’t even know...what does that...”I had to say, “how do you come onto the stage if you come in through the audience?” And she’s like, “the steps.”And I was like, “oh, right! Of course!” I imagined myself having to vault onto the stage or something.

PB:

Ask someone for a leg up.

BB:

Yeah, exactly! Ask the audience for a help. Yeah, but I’m really looking forward to it. And, you know, me and Emily spoke a bit before we did the job and I was excited by it because, of course, I know of the Globe and of the Shakespeare’s I could think of in my head, the one that seems most unlikely is Macbeth. Because when you see Macbeth now, it’s always dark: candles, blood, whispers in the corners. And this is going to be outdoors; it’s in sunlight. Or hopefully sunlight, hopefully not rain. But I thought, “god, that’s just going to change everything or change the way modern audience and actors would look at Macbeth.” Because we can’t play it the way you would see...

PB:

It can’t be in the dark...

BB:

I want to be carrying a candle. But it doesn’t matter. Have a candle if you want! It’s going to be twelve in the afternoon outside. And just thinking, Shakespeare wrote it for that! So, I just thought, “god, it sounds really exciting.”

PB:

And what preparations do you do for your role before the rehearsals start?

BB:

A lot of reading. I read it in a way that I try not to make any decisions or anything. I just read it. I try to read it every day. I just read the play without thinking, “oh, I think I’ll do this or that” or I’ll think the character means this. And I try to do that without looking at the notes that these great academics or whoever have done – that really help once you get to rehearsals. You know the Collins or Oxford or whoever is telling you why someone’s saying something. Because sometimes it’s nice to make your own idea, you know? Just through reading it you go, “ah, that means that.” And then you read it [the notes] and go, “ah, it doesn’t mean that at all.” But, at least, you have a shadow or an image of the thing that you thought, that might be interesting. Might never have been said that way. So, that’s the main thing I do. And then, you know, that classic thing of: what do people say about me? What do I say about people? And what are facts about me? So, if someone says, “he’s a man who never raises his voice,” that’s got to influence what you’re doing. And then what you say about other people informs as well, I think. If you’re always saying nice things about people or if you’re always gossiping about people, it says something about your character. So, I think that’s a really basic and informative thing.

PB:

Great! Thank you very much.

BB:

Well, thank you.

Back to top

Comments

Liz Karley, Hampshire

I'm so looking forward to this production. It will be my first time at the Globe too. I am reading through Macbeth for the first time since studying it at school, and its all coming back to me. Can't wait!

ADD YOUR THOUGHTS TO THE CONVERSation

We welcome your opinions. This is a public forum. Libellous and abusive comments are not allowed. Please read our Forum Rules.